Even if a sword is poised at one’s throat, one must always remain hopeful and pray to G-d for salvation. This idea of the Sages was often quoted by my friend Elisheva Chana.
Let’s take a trip back in time to the year 1977 – the year in which G-d arranged for Elisheva Chana and myself to meet at a women’s yeshiva in Jerusalem. We were part of a group of fifteen guinea pigs –15 young women who took on the challenge of learning in a newly established yeshiva. Later on, another three women joined us. (It was a resounding success and has blossomed in the ensuing years.) I remember meeting Elisheva Chana, then known as Beth, and I was drawn to her smile and soft voice.
It was a year of Torah learning, a year of fostering new friendships, a year of encounters with diverse educators and personalities, a year of becoming more attached to the land, and a year of relative innocence. Despite the terrorist attack on a Jerusalem bus line on which many of us traveled that had our rosh yeshiva worried sick until all of his “maidles” were back safe and sound, it was a year of relative calm, with a good portion spent in the beit midrash.
During the ensuing years, Elisheva Chana and I led separate lives. Elisheva Chana was drawn to Lubavitch and spent long durations of time in New York close to the Rebbe, z”l. I made aliyah in 1981 and married in 1984. Every handful of years I would call Elisheva Chana when she was back in Israel, to say hi and sometimes to suggest a shidduch.
Once, a close friend mentioned to me during a phone conversation that she had recently seen Elisheva Chana who told her, “Tell Adina that I’m not well.” I called her immediately and was stunned and greatly upset to hear that the big C (or CA in medical terminology) had entered her life.
I made a promise to myself that I would help out Elisheva Chana in any way I could. I raised money for her care, I called her, I visited her, and I davened. Oh, how I davened!
A visit to Elisheva Chana, whether in the hospital or in one of her various rented apartments, was always a spiritual encounter. Despite her terrible, terrible suffering, the welfare of others was high on her priority list. I put names on my Tehillim list of several people for whom Elisheva Chana asked me to daven. She would tell me, “This one needs better health, this one needs a marriage partner.”
She was a highly intelligent woman who was down-to-earth. She made friends wherever her feet trod. She never married and bore children, but the rabbis consider that those to whom one teaches Torah are considered like one’s own children. In this sense, Elisheva Chana had an abundance of children.
Elisheva Chana only wanted positive energy around her. She did not want to discuss death and dying. She wanted to live. I know from my studies in social work that denial is one of the stages before acceptance of death. I debated if Elisheva Chana was in this stage. While speaking to a friend who is also a social worker, she said that being positive is a wonderful way to try to maintain or reach good health. The late Dr. Kubler-Ross would probably have stated that Elisheva Chana was in the denial stage, but often I felt that Elisheva Chana had a gargantuan reservoir of faith and she trusted that G-d would heal her.
During one of my visits in which I observed her weakness and weight loss, I could not imagine that she would leave the hospital alive. I came equipped with a dvar Torahand I asked her if she was interested in hearing it. She answered in the affirmative. Well, G-d had a different imagination than I and she was discharged. She lived well beyond the maximum time that mortal doctors gave her.
What allowed Elisheva Chana to live for so long? Was it the macrobiotic diet? Was it the hope that she felt? Was it the good deeds that so many people performed in her merit? Was it her merits? Was it the countless prayers and tears?
Elisheva Chana just about always maintained a positive air of hope. At times, she made me very hopeful that the miracle we prayed for would occur. I felt that G-d would remove that sharp sword from her neck.
But it was not to be. Elisheva Chana, who was so connected to the beauty of nature and who had wanted to convalesce in a beautiful place like Bat Ayin in Gush Etzion, was laid to rest in Har Hamunachot in Jerusalem. She was given the beautiful and serene view she craved. Mountains with trees surround the area on which she rests.
One of the things that so bothered me is that Elisheva Chana never married. What about the concept that forty days before a child is born, his/her marriage partner is decreed in Heaven? Following her passing, I had a comforting thought. Perhaps her eternal partner was awaiting her in Heaven! May her memory be forever a blessing.
The author asks people to perform mitzvot in the memory of Elisheva Chana bat Avraham.